Joseph And The War Vet: How Both Were Forgotten

Remember God Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the time we take to honor those who died while serving our country. In today’s post we’ll look at the life of Joseph and what he had in common with one U.S. war vet who died much later than you would imagine.

Genesis 40:8-23

Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker each have dreams on the same night. Joseph, their fellow prisoner, sees they’re dejected because they recognize the dreams as having meaning, but they can’t figure out the interpretation. So Joseph asks them the rhetorical question, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”

So the cupbearer decides to share his dream with Joseph.

The cupbearer, says, In my dream I see this vine in front of me, and it has three branches. As soon as the vine buds, it blossoms, and it’s clusters ripen into grapes. In my dream, Pharaoh’s cup is in my hand so I take the grapes, squeeze the juice out of them into Pharaoh’s cup, and put the cup in his hand.

Joseph says, This is the interpretation, The three branches are three days. Inside of three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and call you back up to your former position. You’ll put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand just like you used to. Now listen, when you’re back in Pharaoh’s good graces, remember me and do me a favor: mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was taken by force from the land of the Hebrews, and I’ve never done anything to deserve a life sentence in a dungeon.

When the baker sees that the cupbearer received a favorable interpretation he decides to share his dream as well.

I also had a dream, the baker says. In my dream I have three baskets of bread on top of my head. Inside the top basket there are all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the only thing is, birds are eating them out of the basket on my head.

Joseph says, This is what it means, The three baskets equal three days. In three days Pharaoh will have your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat your flesh.

Cut to three days later and it’s Pharaoh’s birthday. He gives a feast for all his officials. Pharaoh lifts up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, in front of all his administration. He restores the chief cupbearer to his old position, so he’s serving Pharaoh his cup once again. But he has the chief baker impaled. Everything happened just as God, through Joseph, had interpreted.

But the chief cupbearer forgot about Joseph and his request.

Joseph and Jesus:

The picture of Jesus painted in Joseph’s life continues in this part of Joseph’s story as we see parallels between them:

1) Both were sentenced based on false accusations: Joseph accused of raping Potiphar’s wife, and Jesus of inciting rebellion against the established government. (Luke 23:1-4)

2) Both were numbered with two transgressors: Joseph with the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and Jesus with the two thieves on either side of Him as He hung on the cross. (Mark 15:27-28)

The baker of bread and the cupbearer of wine also speak of Jesus’ command for us to take communion. And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)

3) And both endured feeling forgotten: Joseph thought he was forgotten by the cupbearer, but he wasn’t, as we’ll see later. And Jesus, felt forsaken when He was separated from His Father for the first time in eternity. He cried out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:45-50)


Forgotten

A good friend of mine shared with me recently about how he’s feeling forgotten. He’s separated from family, he has financial problems, and he has health problems. Maybe you’re feeling forgotten. Maybe you’re not stuck in a dungeon but stuck in a difficult work environment, or stuck on unemployment, or stuck in a house that’s upside down financially, or stuck in debt, or stuck in a tough marriage.

You know, just a few chapters previous, the Bible says of Joseph, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness. (Genesis 39:21) Given Joseph’s story so far, you might be saying to yourself right now, “Are you kidding me? The Lord was with him? The Lord showed him kindness? What kindness? Joseph’s family badmouthed him behind his back, they plotted to kill him, they tossed him into a cistern, they sold him into slavery, they told his father he was dead, then he was falsely accused of rape, tossed into a dungeon, and now… Now the cupbearer’s forgotten about him altogether and he’s rotting in this dungeon for who knows how long! Kindness you say?”

Speaking of God the Father, Jesus said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

In other words, we all have problems.

Jesus said it again, even more directly, when He stated, In this world you will have trouble. (John 16:33)

It’s not surprising then that Joseph has had trouble, serious trouble. We all either do have, or will have trouble. You either have, or are going to have trouble, serious trouble. Every single person on the planet experiences problems. No one escapes. Not one of us. No matter what we do.

Because we live in a fallen world, we have no choice when it comes to troubles, we’ll all have them. The choice we do have though, is whether or not we want the Lord with us in the dungeon, whether or not we want Him to show us kindness when we’re stuck in that tough situation, when we’re in the midst of our trouble. Walking through problems with Him can make our difficulties so much better than they would be otherwise.

Before he died I saw Louie Zamperini interviewed on a talk show. Louie is the character in the first movie Angelina Jolie directed, Unbroken. You may have seen it or read the book it’s based on. Louie was a juvenile delinquent who seemed to turn things around when he became a track star as a teenager. He went to the Olympics and it appeared he had a bright future ahead of him. Many thought he’d be the first to break the four minute mile barrier. But before the next Olympics, World War II started. Louie enlisted as a bombardier. During a rescue mission his plane crashed into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He was lost at sea on a life raft with two fellow soldiers for 47 days, longer than any other person in history at that time. And during that time he was nearly killed by starvation, sharks, storms, and a Japanese bomber that strafed his raft — twice.

But that wasn’t even the hard part. On the 48th day they were captured by the Japanese. Louie was tortured mercilessly by a psychotic Japanese guard who was nicknamed “the Bird” by the prisoners. Zamperini’s torture at the hands of this man went on for years.

During his time lost at sea and as a P.O.W. Louie prayed fervently for God to spare his life. In return, Louie promised he would serve Him.

Miraculously, Louie did survive the war but afterwards he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He had intense horrific dreams of his tormentor, the Bird, every single night. He even attempted to find him in Japan so he could kill him in revenge. He started drinking heavily. He had trouble holding a job. He was at rock bottom. Eventually his wife told him she was filing for divorce.

Then one day his wife attended a Billy Graham crusade. She made a commitment to Christ and came home a changed woman. She announced to Louie the divorce was off. She also drug Louie to the next crusade meeting. He was resentful and angry about it. But then she talked him into attending another, and as he listened to Billy Graham that second time, it hit him.

I have forgotten!

On the talk show he said, I thought to myself, what an idiot! Here I had told God if He saved me I’d serve Him for the rest of my life. God kept his end of the deal, but I had forgotten mine. So I committed myself to Christ. Up until that time I dreamed of the Bird every night. But since the day I committed myself to Christ, I haven’t dreamed of him once, and I haven’t had any drinking problems.

The point is, God didn’t forget Joseph while he was in the dungeon. And God didn’t forget Louie Zamperini, not even while he was stranded at sea and suffering torture from the Bird.

But Louie forgot Him!

It’s not a question of God forgetting you. It’s a question of you forgetting Him!

I’m telling you right now, remember Him. Whatever you do, remember to take Him with you into the dungeon you’re dwelling in currently. Remember Him. Remember to take Him with you out in whatever sea you’re stranded in. Remember Him. Remember to take Him with you into whatever torture you’re enduring.

Take Him into your heart and mind by reading His Bible. Take Him into conversation by praying to Him. Take Him into your company by worshiping Him at His house, with His people.

And do this in remembrance of Him — take communion.

He hasn’t forgotten you.

It’s good to remember those who died in battle for our country. And it’s good to remember Him.

Remember Him.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come.

Ecclesiastes 12:1

Genesis 40:8-23

They said to him,“We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes.11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.”18 And Joseph answered and said,“This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants andlifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (ESV)

References:

Bible Gateway

Angelina Jolie, Unbroken, the movie, 2014

Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken, Random House, 2010

Image via Beverly and Pack – Creative Commons

Why You Can’t Add Jesus To Your Life

Christian SufferingThe Night Jesus Came To Eva

I just read an amazing story from Eric Metaxas‘s excellent book Miracles. It’s a story about a woman named Eva Meyer, the daughter of a brilliant physicist, Dr. C.J. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was as gentle as he was brilliant and a loving father, but unfortunately his other daughter, Eva’s sister, didn’t take after him or her mother.

In the early 1990s Eva was given her sister’s infant daughter to care for, and later, her infant son as well. Eva raised them as her own for four years. She also did her best to protect them from the destructive lifestyle of their parents’ who were ensnared in substance abuse. Eva’s sister would spontaneously take them away from time to time, but Eva had no custody rights to the children and was helpless in the situation.

About ten years passed. Eva’s sister was living in Seattle and now had six children. The oldest of them was ten. Eva’s sister said she wanted to pay Eva a visit and flew out to her home in Connecticut for Christmas. But what she really wanted Continue reading

Who Did He Think He Was?

Mercy

Who Did He Think He Was?

I heard this story recently about a guy who ran a construction company. He was very successful and not surprisingly, he was industrious too. And when he drove he was often on his way to do something important.

Now this man is a Christian and, from what I understand, a guy you would probably describe as mild mannered if you talked with him face to face. But, if another driver did anything to slow him down when he was on the road, he would lose his composure. Bad drivers made him angry.

Then this man, the one with the anger, was diagnosed with cancer. And with the cancer came the treatments.

Well one day Continue reading

The 1 Thing God Wants You To Do (To Reveal Him To The World)

Love one another

God Uses People

Before we get to the one thing, I just want to establish that God uses people. He always has in the past and He still does today. God uses people to reveal Himself to the world. There are exceptions, like the time he led the Israelites with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (3,500 years or so ago). But it’s people He uses, most of the time, to reveal Himself to the world. Even a casual reading of just a few chapters of scripture affirms this.

Are You A Christian?

Are you a Christian?

If you are, then God wants to use you. He wants to use you to reveal Himself to the world, and He wants you to do one thing in particular. And here’s the one thing: He wants you to love other Christians.

And here’s how we know that to be true: Just before Jesus was about to be taken away and executed by the government, he gave us what he called “a new commandment.” He commanded us to love one another. And then he said plainly,

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By this all people will know you are Jesus’ disciple, by your love for other disciples of Christ, by your love for other Christians. This is how God wants people to recognize us as Christians. This is how God wants to attract people to Christ. Love that’s noticeable to people. By this we will be known.

Or will we?

What are we known for?

What are you known for?

What am I known for?

As I write this I have to ask myself, “What have I done to love another Christian recently?”

Doing Something Different

I want to confess something to you. I fear I’m the man who buried his talent.

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable about the master who gave his servants talents. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. He left on a journey and when he returned, two of the servants were rewarded for investing their talents. One servant was too afraid to take the initiative, to venture out, and to invest his one talent–so he buried it. (Matthew 25:14-30)

What I’ve never heard anyone talk about is that it took courage for those other two servants to invest those talents. There was real risk involved. What if when the master returned, they were broke?

The one who buried his talent was afraid. He was afraid the investment would fail. He was afraid to take a loss. So he took what was given to him by his Master, and he buried it. Like that man, I’m afraid. I’m afraid to love other Christians. I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid I’ll look foolish. I’m afraid of the costs associated with loving. Loving costs time and energy. Loving others can cost money.

But even though there was risk involved for the other two servants, the ones who invested their talents. Even though it was possible their investments could have failed: they invested anyway.

If we don’t want to be like the man who buried his talent, we have to do better. And doing better means doing differently. You and I, we need to invest our love, in spite of the risks. We need to love other people, and other Christians in particular, or we’ll be just like that man who buried his talent.

God said to the two who invested in spite of the risks, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But He said something different to the one who didn’t invest because he was afraid. He called him, “wicked” and “slothful.”

For me at least, I so want to hear those words from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

For me at least, it’s time for change.

I hope you’ll join me.

Pray with me: “Father, Jesus said it plainly, that we’ll be known for our love for one another. Please give us Your Holy Spirit in abundant measure to change us. Make us a people who love each other in such a way that we’re known as Jesus’ disciples because of it. In Jesus name, amen.”

The Parable of the Talents

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

–Jesus Christ, Matthew 25:14-30

References:

Bible Gateway

Francis and Lisa Chan, You and Me Forever, Claire Love Publishing, 2014

Image via wilB – Creative Commons

Why Atheists Change Their Mind: 8 Common Factors

atheist conversion

The following is a blog post from Matt Nelson. You can read more from Matt on his blog at Reasonable Catholic.

Conversions from atheism are often gradual and complex, no doubt. For many converts the road is slow and tedious, tiring and trying. But in the end unbelievers who find God can enjoy an inner peace that comes from a clear conscience in knowing they held to truth and followed the arguments faithfully.Of course not all converts from atheism become Christian or even religious. Some converts only reach a deistic belief in God (an areligious position that God is “impersonal”) but the leap is still monumental; and it opens new, unforeseen horizons.

The factors that lead to faith are often diverse. It is clear that every former atheist has walked a unique path to God. Cardinal Ratzinger was once asked how many ways there are to God. He replied:

“As many ways as there are people. For even within the same faith each man’s way is an entirely personal one.”

Of course, the pope-to-be was not endorsing the view that “all religions are equal” but rather that there always seems to be a unique combination of factors—or steps—that move each convert towards belief in God. It also seems that some of these factors are more prominent across the board than others.

Here are eight common factors that lead atheists to change their minds about God:

1. Good Literature and Reasonable Writing.

Reasonable atheists eventually become theists because they are reasonable; and furthermore, because they are honest. They are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads; and in many cases the evidence comes to the atheist most coherently and well-presented through the writings of believers in God.

Author Karen Edmisten admits on her blog: Continue reading

Church: If the earliest Christ followers didn’t do church the way we do today, why should I?

should I go to church

To Go Or Not To Go?

I had lunch with a twenty-something and thirty-something today. These two men happen to be two of my favorite people on planet earth. We had a great time together. Toward the end of our meal the conversation turned to church. During the conversation both agreed that attending church is unnecessary. One commented that Pope Francis made the statement: It is not necessary to go to church, and, for many nature can be a church. The other made the accurate observation that the early followers of Christ didn’t go to a church building to worship in the same way we do today. And I have to confess, I agree with him. And if you’re interested, you can listen to this guy who shares some of the same sentiments as the thirty-something who made that comment: If Jesus were the pastor of your church you probably wouldn’t go there

But what about that? What about the earliest Christians? If the earliest Christ followers didn’t do church the way we do today, why should we? Continue reading

Your Money (And your future)

financesNew House With A View

There’s a thirty-something I know who looked out his window the other day to see his neighbor urinating on a garage. I asked him what he did about it, and he said, “I just smiled and waved at the guy. He was very embarrassed, believe me.” This thirty-something, he very recently made a decision to buy a duplex, and now he and his family are living in one unit. They’re going to rent the other. It’s only temporary, but the thing is, his strategy comes with sacrifices. The unit is small for his family of three and his large dog. The purchase stretches his budget to the max, and then a little beyond. And–well–occasionally he might see his next door neighbor urinating on a garage. Nevertheless, I think this thirty-something has made a very wise decision only a small percentage of people make. He is Continue reading

Easter And Your Fear Of Death

fear of death

The Fountain

Kathy and I just finished watching The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. IMDB describes the movie this way: “As a modern-day scientist, Tommy (Jackman) is struggling with mortality, desperately searching for the medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, Izzi (Rachel Weisz).”

Jackman’s character Tommy is obsessed with finding a cure for his wife’s cancer to the point where he devotes nearly all his time to his research, often at the expense of his relationship with his dying Izzi. He’s consumed with finding the answer to the problem of death.

Death, Dying, And Easter

I think Easter is one of the most relevant times possible for us to explore our anxiety over our own mortality. I know there are some this Easter who are struggling with the fear of death. And there’s a logic to it because the reality is, despite the amazing progress of science and medicine, one statistic about death remains completely unchanged: 100% of us die. And that inspires fear.

Life insurance companies know this. We see them play on this fear in advertisements on TV and on the internet. The content creators of mass media also recognize our fear of death. When they feature articles about health remedies that promise to help us live longer, they know they’ll attract readers, listeners, and viewers (which in turn attracts advertisers–some of which might be life insurance companies).

But what we fear, I think, is not death itself, but Continue reading

My Experience With Christians (and why it’s so hard to leave the Rogue Valley)

why are Christians so mean

The Sun Sets On The Rogue Valley

Kathy and I are moving away from the beautiful Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. There will be more on that a little later but first I want to look at how some people view Christians.

Why Do So Many Doctors Treating Ebola Have To Be Christian?

Not long ago I read this article on slate.com about how most of the medical care for Ebola patients in Africa comes from missionaries. And the author, who wasn’t a Christian, made some interesting statements about those missionaries. He said he’s uncomfortable with the missionary medical personnel in Africa because they don’t collect data the way some secular medical organizations do, and because they lack oversight. Then he said this,

“And yet, truth be told, these valid critiques don’t fully explain my discomfort with missionary medicine. If we had thousands of secular doctors doing exactly the same work, I would probably excuse most of these flaws. ‘They’re doing work no one else will,’ I would say. ‘You can’t expect perfection.'”

Kind of weird.

A Pastor Fund Raises For A Gulf Stream Jet Aircraft

Continue reading